Instructor Interviews

Session 10: Benita Bunjun, 11 March 2008

Benita Bunjun talks about the importance of Aboriginal content in her curriculum and how the university needs a systemic change in its approach in dealing with Aboriginal issues. She also discusses the difficulties teaching first year students and different techniques she uses according to the course level.

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Session 11: William Lindsay, 2 April 2008

Speaking from an Aboriginal perspective, William Lindsay talks about his experiences both as an instructor and as a student years ago. He reaccounts various classroom experiences and explains why instructors should be more sensitive. He also compares the differences between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal instructors and how lots of improvements still need to be made in the classroom environment.

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Session 12: Lorraine Weir, 14 April 2008

Lorraine Weir discusses the complex dynamics of classrooms where Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students have differing expectations of class curriculum and engage with coursework from different standpoints, which can polarize the classroom. Speaking as a non-Aboriginal instructor, she points out issues of being an “authority figure” in relation to Aboriginal content, but that the instructor is responsible for the classroom climate nonetheless, and discusses her techniques for teaching and discussing Aboriginal content from her positionality.

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Session 13: Jennifer Kramer, 15 April 2008

Jennifer Kramer discusses the history of her field and shifting values from claiming authority over knowledge about Aboriginal peoples to collaborative research and classroom dialogue. She cites specific classroom experiences and incidents to discuss techniques she has developed to address them. She identifies that the strategies she uses are ones that she has developed from her own experiences because of the lack of opportunity to discuss her experiences and techniques with other instructors. She suggests public meetings to initiate these discussions, as many of her colleagues were reluctant to participate in the project for fear of being perceived as being deficient in teaching skills.

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Session 14: Patrick Moore, 15 April 2008

Speaking as a non-Aboriginal instructor, Patrick Moore discusses the complexities of teaching upper level classes with Aboriginal content, where students frequently engage with course material from different perspectives, and this affects decisions he makes around curriculum content and the structure of course assignments. He identifies postsecondary institutions’ pattern of creating larger class sizes as detrimental to the kind of attention required to teach and discuss Aboriginal issues. He also points out that the ways that institutions weigh research over teaching capacity in faculty evaluation forces faculty to emphasize research to the detriment of teaching skills development.

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Session 15: Coll Thrush, 16 April 2008

Coll Thrush reflects on the challenges of upper level classes where students are at varied levels of preparation to engage with course curriculum. He discusses the sensitivity of the subject matter for many students, and striking a balance between discussing colonization and the potential impacts of this material on students. He shares his techniques for challenging undergirding assumptions about Aboriginal people, including assignments that ask students to unpack stereotypes, but that when students leave his classes they are only just beginning to grasp the complexity of the issues. He also identifies the need for greater Aboriginal content at the lower course levels in order to better prepare students for upper level coursework, as well as greater university investment in supporting Aboriginal students while at university.

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Session 16: Alannah Young, 17 April 2008

Reflecting on experiences as a student and working in a professional capacity at the university, Alannah Young identifies and discusses issues involved in integrating Aboriginal concerns and interests with the university, and questions how academic approaches and community-based approaches to learning can be brought together.

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Session 17: Heidi Hansen, 22 April 2008

As an instructor for an upper level course where students are frequently unprepared for the Aboriginal course content, Heidi Hansen discusses the need to create a “safe” classroom environment for teaching Aboriginal issues, where “safe” means creating an environment where students can ask questions without fear of reprisal from her. As a person of Aboriginal heritage, she discusses the use of circles in her classes as a way of creating a sense of camaraderie in the classroom, and identifies the need for “healthy” Aboriginal instructors and administrators at the university level to effectively engage students in classes and coursework.

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Session 18: Margery Fee, 24 April 2008

Margery Fee discusses her experiences of the complexities of being a non-Aboriginal instructor teaching Aboriginal content, and the need for awareness on the part of the instructor Aboriginal students frequently approach postsecondary education from a variety of experiences and backgrounds, and that this informs their academic performance. She also discusses the different expectations that Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students have of course curriculum, and the course assignments she has developed that are designed to bring greater knowledge of core Aboriginal issues into the classroom. She also points out the critical need to infuse postsecondary curriculum with Aboriginal content in the context of increaing contemporary political and social awareness of the history of colonization and its impact on Aboriginal peoples.

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Session 19: Charlotte Townsend-Gault, 21 May 2008

Beginning with broader questions of how to have effective discussions of potentially contentious issues in classrooms, Charlotte Townsend-Gault, who teaches courses that focus on Aboriginal content, points to the lack of knowledge of Aboriginal history as a significant factor leading to difficult classroom situations. She discusses classroom approaches she uses to mitigate these circumstances, and that these approaches are context-dependent and develop over time. She cautions against collapsing Aboriginal issues into broader issues of discrimination given the particular historical circumstances that inform Aboriginal issues and the problematic attitudes and situations that she encounters in her classes.

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Session 20: Linc Kesler, 2 July 2008

Linc Kesler discusses the need to develop effective communcations in classrooms as a basis for having meaningful discussions of politically and culturally sensitive issues. In relation to Aboriginal issues in classroom discussions, he identifies that individuals frequently make statements that state their positions in relation to the issues, but which do not encourage dialogue about the issues. He points out that the classroom is a venue in which these statements can be explored, and that the skills to create such a discursive environment are advanced but a key to instructors’ functions at the university.

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Session 21: Andrew Martindale, 7 July 2008

An instructor in Archeology, Andrew Martindale describes how students are frequently unprepared for the complexities of the issues involved in studying First Nations histories, and that much of the work he does is to inform students of the contentious history of Archeology in Aboriginal history in order to contexualize the self-reflexitivity that is required of the discipline. He considers certain approaches he’s taken to address difficult statments or situations that may occur in his classes, and questions if these approaches may discourage discussion and thereby forclose the possibility of students’ being able to work out why these statments may be problematic.

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